SoluGrowth’s Berna Botha weighs up retrenchment with ready-fit resources

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SoluGrowth business executive Berna Botha provides an overview of the challenges that keep CFOs up at night, as well as trends rapidly reshaping the finance profession.

The finance function within organisations has been facing unprecedented transformation since Covid-19. The lasting impact of the pandemic continues to be felt in the workplace, driving finance to rethink its strategic goals and respond effectively to large-scale shifts that affect the future of work.

Reflecting on the changing nature of the finance function that is shaping the future workplace, SoluGrowth business executive Berna Botha highlights a noticeable increase in retrenchments within large corporations in the past three years as a key trend. She says during Covid-19 companies cut their workforces and revisited their processes to save on costs and were able to continue working with a limited number of employees for a short period during the pandemic.

“With the uptake in the economy after Covid, companies realised that even though they updated processes, they did not have enough people resources, but according to their budgets, could not add more headcount. What we are seeing in the market is that a lot of clients are now requiring resources to either be seconded to them to assist with the day-to-day operations, or to manage improvement projects”, says Berna.

Companies realised that even though they updated processes, they did not have enough people resources.

To fill the employment gap within the finance sector while reducing training expenditure, companies are hiring ready-fit employees. “This resource must walk into a specific role, immediately understand what is required and start working. The expectation is that the resource already has the experience. They must know what to do and what questions to ask, and must just hit the ground running with limited supervision,” says Berna.

This is an acceleration of an already existing trend that was also seen in 2008 during the world economic crisis. Berna admits that it is becoming a struggle to keep finance personnel engaged and focused on one position long enough to be able to produce more ready-fit resources. In years to come, the demand for these resources will not be met as the talent landscape shifts and CFOs struggle to bridge the finance function skills gap.

“Continuous improvement projects keep our resources engaged and curious. SoluGrowth provides the option for resources to move internally to different clients, but within a safe environment with various subject matter experts available to test their ideas.”

Freelance vs stability

Now more than ever, employees are choosing to leave stable employment positions to become full-time freelancers. The finance sector is seeing a growing number of young people following their passions rather than staying in traditional full-time corporate jobs.

“The younger generation does not want to stay in one job for three to five years. They now want to work for six months or a year and then they want to do something else because of their need for growth”, says Berna.

This trend indicates that employee needs, and priorities have changed significantly over the past few years, hence young people are shaking the workplace status quo. She explains it is therefore important to create a flexible working and learning environment with continuous check-ins, and ensure that the company stays abreast of global trends.

The younger generation does not want to stay in one job for three to five years.

“They do not stay in one place. They are not committed to one company for the rest of their lives. They want to move as quickly as they can to gain exposure and experience,” says Berna. Even though freelance contract employment is on the rise within the finance function, the CFO role will most likely continue to be a strategic partner to deliver value to the wider organisation.

Rising employee behavioural trends require that CFOs take a holistic approach to optimising and digitising the workplace most effectively, and transform to meet the growing demand for a reformed place of work. CFOs who are best equipped to adapt to these trends are likely to continue seeing positive changes in the industry in the future.

Optimisation and augmentation

As part of the above-mentioned trends, it is important to acknowledge the challenge and counter it. Optimisation and augmentation have become a top agenda on the CFO’s priority list. In order to optimise efficiency and maximise shareholder value, CFOs are turning to the utopian promise of cognitive technologies. RPA, AI algorithms, predictive analytics, digital twinning and cloud computing are the new 24/7 workforce, which enables CFOs to be efficient, autonomous, adaptive to rapid change, and to mitigate risk effectively.

In a world polarised by various factors, including the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the role of the CFO is rapidly evolving. It’s becoming increasingly data-driven, powered by AI, and reconfigured to maximise stakeholder value. This transformation is crucial in enabling enterprises to not only survive, but thrive in a world where environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are quantified and scrutinised more than ever before.

For Berna, giving the younger generation the platform to explore their interests through creating a safe training environment and working differently through a hybrid model is the best way to keep them interested in the industry. “It is about identifying the young talent and bringing them up in your company, taking them through all the learnings, creating an innovative environment and eventually having them as part of your leadership team, because ultimately, they are the future of the company,” she says.

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